|Posted on April 30, 2012 at 6:30 PM|
Since 1994 I have been carrying out a breeding bird survey for the BTO on a 1 kilometer square near Wilmington in North Kent. It's just inside the M25, from one point on the square I can see the M25, A2 and the Dartford Bridge crossing the Thames yet it's largely fields with a few hedgerows, horse paddocks and gardens. In the 18 years I have carefully surveyed this little bit of England it has so often mirrored the national fortunes of birdlife. When I first started I saw Turtle Dove, in the early years there were House Martins, Yellow Wagtails, Sedge Warblers, Cuckoo and lots of Linnets, all but the Linnet have gone. There have always been Skylarks and always Corn Buntings, dozens of Skylarks and around 2 or 3 pairs of Corn Buntings. I had a Ring Ouzel one early spring survey day and visiting the square to do a swallow feeding survey one year I even had a Honey Buzzard. I'm amazed that I have yet to record a Buzzard or a Peregrine though Hobby has been seen in several years.
Swallows cling on, I had 4 today, but house martins have not been seen for years. I had just 2 Linnet's and no wagtails at all - I usually see a Pied. Skylarks were typically the first birds I had as I walked down the road between fields of winter wheat but by the time I'd finished the first half of the survey rather worryingly I'd not had a Corn Bunting. Ring-necked Parakeets are now a feature - what a pity! Starlings and House Sparrow's look to be doing well, Greenfinches are down and no woodpeckers today.
Onto the second transect and the preponderance of winter wheat was obvious and I wondered if the Corn Bunting's were gone and that the crops might be to blame. But then as my hopes were fading a single male Corn Bunting sang from a weed in the middle of the wheat. I was elated, no other word for it. Crossing the road I had it or another in the oil seed rape - surely a better crop from their point of view?
More skylarks, a Kestrel - not one I get every visit, then a Whitethroat and I was finished.